The most significant infrastructure project in the history of Schweitzer Mountain Resort is underway and will see its first new chairlift next summer. Dubbed Base Camp, the all-new day skier portal will eventually feature a 1,400 parking spaces, a day lodge, access road, three new lifts and trail connections to Schweitzer’s existing terrain. As Idaho’s largest ski area, Schweitzer already offers nearly 3,000 acres of skiing. However, the Inland Northwest region is growing rapidly and guests today funnel through one base area. “To keep up with demand and continue providing an exceptional guest arrival experience, we prioritized looking for solutions that directly affected parking and mountain access,” explained Mountain Operations Director Rob Batchelder. “I’m very excited about this third phase of Master Plan development and believe Base Camp is a unique solution intended to get people on the mountain efficiently,” he continued.
Schweitzer placed a deposit with Leitner-Poma in the spring for a new detachable quad to replace the Musical Chairs double in 2023. The high speed lift will service beginner terrain and provide egress from the future base area to the current village. A skier bridge across Schweitzer Creek will be built simultaneously with the new, longer lift. “The installation of a high-speed detachable quad will be a major enhancement for all of our guests,” said Batchelder. “Not only will it be easier for beginner skiers and riders to load and unload, the new lift will increase capacity to 2,400 guests per hour, allowing guests to upload and download safer and more efficiently. It will also provide the opportunity to transport foot passengers without skis or snowboards to and from the village, even in summer,” he continued. While the new parking lot and lodge may not be ready for the 2023-24 season, the new lift and first new run will be.
Down the road, a second new detachable will connect Base Camp to the Stella saddle, separating beginner and village-bound guests from other skiers. This nearly 7,000 foot long lift will also allow day skiers to access the backside of the mountain without the need to ride the popular Great Escape Quad. Plans call for additional snowmaking and lifts as buildout continues. “The vision for Base Camp is to become a dedicated area for our day-guests, perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, with ample parking and additional rental and SnowSports school facilities,” says Schweitzer’s master plan website. “Across the country, ski resorts have continuously faced challenges associated with growth and increased demand. The new Base Camp project is not only a big deal for our growing community, it’s a big deal for the industry, and as of the last independently owned resorts, Schweitzer’s future is very bright.”
Lots of base improvements going on out there this season. Schweitzer, Steamboat, where else?
Gee, for an industry that is suffering from the ravages of the climate crisis Schweitzer seems very optimistic about the future. I applaud them for not giving in to the purveyors of doom and gloom.
Especially given *where* Base Camp is located! South-facing, among the lowest elevation places on the mountain…
From a logical perspective, the new means of getting to the backside has several advantages compared to the Great Escape:
1) The southern facing slopes are much better covered with trees that protect against sun.
2) Intermediate access to the north facing stuff is much easier and in a worse case scenario, snow making does not need to be made on ESE ridge highly vulnerable to snow.
3) On top of that, Schweitzer probably knows the importance of having downloading for the new base camp chair given the terrain may not be skiable in bad years. The new chair going up the south slope can be designed to have the same downloading capacity.
From a logical perspective, it makes sense for Schweitzer to accelerate the new investments to help protect against lower snow years. Plus, Schweitzer largely relies on the local market for skiers, and is better resourced and in a similar/better geographical position compared to all of it’s competitors in the US. If anything, I’d expect that after this base camp project is completed, Schweitzer might gain in advantage in non-apocalyptic low snow years due to it having better groomer terrain and better snowmaking compared to US competitors, as well as easily accessible north facing terrain.
If they relied on the local market, they would treat the locals better!
Amy- What’s your gripe about locals treatment?
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So this is actually a really interesting update. I was pretty underwhelmed by the 2018 MDP. The connectivity between Base Camp and Musical Chairs pod was pretty lacking, with the only way to access the latter by going up the chair to at least the mid-station on the Stella Gap lift. Then there was no way to get back from the Village or Musical Chairs to Base Camp w/o going up and over via Great Escape. Moreover the change in alignment for lift 6 makes no sense at all. It would significantly reduce the amount of lapable terrain that lift supports with a base terminal in no man’s land between Village, Base Camp and Musical Chairs. Hopefully they adjust that configuration so it starts at a place that people can actually get to.
Putting that aside, the link to the Master Plan page on the Schweitzer website is interesting in that it seems to indicate that the base terminal of Musical Chairs is going to be brought down to Base Camp, with the bridge over Schweitzer Creek providing connectivity to the current Musical Chairs pod. Hopefully that’s a wide bridge, but that configuration is so incredibly improved if that’s the plan. Allows quick access from Base Camp to Village and generally provides for better circulation with all runs headed south in that area now having a place to go. Will be interested to see what the new renderings look like.
Isn’t the terrain between the bottom of Musical Chairs and Base Camp really flat?
Too bad Schweitzer isn’t expanding down its backside where the cat skiing operates. At one time, the resort discussed opening up access from Priest Lake
They’ve shared a rendering. Wow!